Eagles Nest

Scott
Update by Scott Lear to the Mini Cooper S Club Racer project car
Aug 8, 2008

Our MINI Cooper S arrives ready to rumble at Eagles Nest.
With nearly 80,000 miles on the odometer, our trusty Pathfinder is still a great long-distance tow vehicle.
Spectators had a chance to take a hay ride up the twisty hillclimb course.
Thanks to Richard Hunter for the on-track action photos.
There's some minor rubbing in the rear, but nothing that won't machine itself fixed.
The GoPro Motorsports Hero camera has some flaws, but its ease of installation makes it a natural for events like these.
We made a total of 11 runs up the mountain, and the MINI ran flawlessly.
A new set of Macs tie-down straps kept the MINI safe and secure on the trailer for the trip home.

The last runs of the day were a seesaw battle between the MINI and Cordray’s beautiful V8-powered Datsun.

After the initial shakedown test of our 2005 MINI Cooper S revealed a deranged rear lower control arm, we replaced them with Helix adjustable pieces from MINSpeed.net for $220. The new arms allowed us to dial in about 1.5 degrees of negative camber in the rear, as well as about 1/8-inch toe in. The front already had camber plates installed, so the alignment settings of 2.5 degrees of negative camber and zero toe were a snap to get to. Then, we decided to up the ante from test laps to timed competition. We don’t have the cage or the seat up to road-racing snuff quite yet, but the car is a bit over-prepared for the average autocross. When good friend and Central Carolina Region SCCA event chair Tony Wentworth reminded us about the Eagles Nest Hillclimb, we knew we had a match.

Last year, we had a blast at the same region’s Wolf Ridge Hillclimb in our Project 2002 Honda Civic Si, and at first glance we could tell that the MINI would be even better suited to such an event. SCCA’s Time Trial rules don’t require a full race seat or even a full roll cage as long as you’ve got a roof, so the MINI was legal as it sat. Plus, the supercharger would help compensate for the loss of power at altitude, and the sticky BFGoodrich g-Force R1 tires were perfectly heat cycled and ready to go.

Eagles Nest, located near Banner Elk, N.C., was simply stunning. The mountain resort/spa has beautiful views and great facilities everywhere, from outdoor jacuzzis and massage tents to a big pavilion with delicious Carolina BBQ.

We signed up for the Street Modified class, but it turns out that SM in a CCR-SCCA Hillclimb isn’t quite the same as Street Mod at a regular Solo event. Instead, it’s kind of a catchall class for cars that don’t belong elsewhere. As a result, our competition was a Caterham 7 driven by John and Jonathon Cort, a Datsun 280Z with a hopped-up 350 V8 in the nose piloted by Shep Cordray, and Steve Rankins’s wicked Subaru Impreza WRX STI, a car that finished quite well at our 2007 Hankook Ultimate Track Car Challenge.

We felt a bit underdoggish, but the MINI Cooper S wasn’t without its share of competition advantages. It’s a lot heavier than the Caterham and gave up power and traction to the Datsun and the Subaru, but on R-compounds it has plenty of handling capability and the lack of a limited-slip differential wasn’t too much of a problem. Also, having ABS enabled us to be a bit more brave diving into the tighter corners. Even though this was driver Scott R. Lear’s first time in the car, MINIs are very easy to drive at the limit, and after a few reconnaissance runs the car and driver were up to speed and the pushing could begin.

An optimistic target was anything faster than a 1:40. The Corts put down very solid times on their first runs, but unfortunately an off on Jonathan’s second run put the Caterham out of contention. Rankins demonstrated from the word go that his Subaru would be untouchable in class, as he was several seconds ahead of the rest of us. Rain botched a pair of our runs early on, but we were still learning the course, so it wasn’t that heartbreaking. Plus, the MINI was running flawlessly, so we weren’t worried about a mechanical taking us out.

Still, we were dead last at the end of Saturday’s runs, but Cordray’s Datsun and some of the Caterham’s times were within reach. We knew where we could pick up speed, and as we became familiar with the course, simple reaction took a back seat to thinking ahead and driving a more proper line.

By our fourth run on day two we were down to a 1:42 flat, enough to bump us ahead of John Cort’s first-run time in the Caterham. The last runs of the day were a seesaw battle between the MINI and Cordray’s beautiful V8-powered Datsun; we pushed harder and harder until the second-to-last run of the day, which put us at 1:40.374, just 65 thousandths of a second ahead of Cordray. With a MINI that was still whole and capable of driving itself on the trailer, we decided to call it a day, forgoing our last run opportunity. Cordray didn’t find any more time on the mountain, so we had nabbed third place in class. Better still, we were 13th overall in a field of 44 cars.

John Finger added to his hillclimbing legend by taking the overall win in a Riley Protofab Super Vee with a 1:28.368. Just as impressive was Gary Ramsey in second overall with his radical Southern Auto Classics Cobra Replica; this NASCAR-engined beast was in serious contention for king of the hill honors despite having fenders and a lot more mass than the formula cars it was running with and often beating.

Be sure to check out the in-car video of our fastest run from our GoPro Motorsports Hero camera; it’s linked at right. Results from the event can be found at The CCR-SCCA Web site

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Scott Lear
Scott Lear
8/8/08 4:15 p.m.

After the initial shakedown test of our 2005 MINI Cooper S revealed a deranged rear lower control arm, we replaced them with Helix adjustable pieces from MINSpeed.net for $220. The new arms allowed us to dial in about 1.5 degrees of negative camber in the rear, as well as about 1/8-inch toe in. The front already had camber plates installed, so the alignment settings of 2.5 degrees of negative camber and zero toe were a snap to get to. Then, we decided to up the ante from test laps to timed competition. We don't have the cage or the seat up to road-racing snuff quite yet, but the car is a bit over-prepared for the average autocross. When good friend and Central Carolina Region SCCA event chair Tony Wentworth reminded us about the Eagles Nest Hillclimb, we knew we had a match.

Last year, we had a blast at the same region's Wolf Ridge Hillclimb in our Project 2002 Honda Civic Si, and at first glance we could tell that the MINI would be even better suited to such an event. SCCA's Time Trial rules don't require a full race seat or even a full roll cage as long as you've got a roof, so the MINI was legal as it sat. Plus, the supercharger would help compensate for the loss of power at altitude, and the sticky BFGoodrich g-Force R1 tires were perfectly heat cycled and ready to go.

Eagles Nest, located near Banner Elk, N.C., was simply stunning. The mountain resort/spa has beautiful views and great facilities everywhere, from outdoor jacuzzis and massage tents to a big pavilion with delicious Carolina BBQ.

We signed up for the Street Modified class, but it turns out that SM in a CCR-SCCA Hillclimb isn't quite the same as Street Mod at a regular Solo event. Instead, it's kind of a catchall class for cars that don't belong elsewhere. As a result, our competition was a Caterham 7 driven by John and Jonathon Cort, a Datsun 280Z with a hopped-up 350 V8 in the nose piloted by Shep Cordray, and Steve Rankins's wicked Subaru Impreza WRX STI, a car that finished quite well at our 2007 Hankook Ultimate Track Car Challenge.

We felt a bit underdoggish, but the MINI Cooper S wasn't without its share of competition advantages. It's a lot heavier than the Caterham and gave up power and traction to the Datsun and the Subaru, but on R-compounds it has plenty of handling capability and the lack of a limited-slip differential wasn't too much of a problem. Also, having ABS enabled us to be a bit more brave diving into the tighter corners. Even though this was driver Scott R. Lear's first time in the car, MINIs are very easy to drive at the limit, and after a few reconnaissance runs the car and driver were up to speed and the pushing could begin.

An optimistic target was anything faster than a 1:40. The Corts put down very solid times on their first runs, but unfortunately an off on Jonathan's second run put the Caterham out of contention. Rankins demonstrated from the word go that his Subaru would be untouchable in class, as he was several seconds ahead of the rest of us. Rain botched a pair of our runs early on, but we were still learning the course, so it wasn't that heartbreaking. Plus, the MINI was running flawlessly, so we weren't worried about a mechanical taking us out.

Still, we were dead last at the end of Saturday's runs, but Cordray's Datsun and some of the Caterham's times were within reach. We knew where we could pick up speed, and as we became familiar with the course, simple reaction took a back seat to thinking ahead and driving a more proper line.

By our fourth run on day two we were down to a 1:42 flat, enough to bump us ahead of John Cort's first-run time in the Caterham. The last runs of the day were a seesaw battle between the MINI and Cordray's beautiful V8-powered Datsun; we pushed harder and harder until the second-to-last run of the day, which put us at 1:40.374, just 65 thousandths of a second ahead of Cordray. With a MINI that was still whole and capable of driving itself on the trailer, we decided to call it a day, forgoing our last run opportunity. Cordray didn't find any more time on the mountain, so we had nabbed third place in class. Better still, we were 13th overall in a field of 44 cars.

John Finger added to his hillclimbing legend by taking the overall win in a Riley Protofab Super Vee with a 1:28.368. Just as impressive was Gary Ramsey in second overall with his radical Southern Auto Classics Cobra Replica; this NASCAR-engined beast was in serious contention for king of the hill honors despite having fenders and a lot more mass than the formula cars it was running with and often beating.

Be sure to check out the in-car video of our fastest run from our GoPro Motorsports Hero camera; it's linked at right. Results from the event can be found at The CCR-SCCA Web site

ffhillclimber
ffhillclimber New Reader
8/14/08 6:51 a.m.

Scott,

Nice write up on Eagles Nest. Thanks for the coverage and please come back next year. Stan Vann

chknhwk
chknhwk HalfDork
8/19/08 11:18 p.m.

Awesome! I want to do a hillclimb sooo bad. I'm certain I will be addicted with the first run. =D
I like those wheels, Konigs? Where did you get that rear wing? That looks awesome on there. I need to do something like that for my (eventual) challenge car.

Scott Lear
Scott Lear
8/20/08 9:59 a.m.

The car is as it came to us from BMW as prepared for the Mini challenge series that never took off in the U.S., complete with a John Cooper Works wing.

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